Monitoring energy use to create a sustainable eco-community

Taiepa Tiketike: Passive Resistance to Climate Change at Parihaka is a project which recently received Gold Status for its partnered approach to research into sustainable energy opportunities for the community of Parihaka.

The community of Parihaka in Taranaki has been working with Massey University researchers to determine what renewable energy source would be best suited to supply their community with electricity. Between 2014 and 2016 whānau and marae installed monitoring equipment in their buildings to measure their energy use, while other devices were also installed to measure local renewable energy sources – water, wind and solar. A local research assistant was appointed through a contestable process to monitor these.

The Parihaka community offered Massey the opportunity to work with them to jointly understand their energy use and learn how the community could become more sustainable. Real-time monitoring equipment hooked up to household electricity meters encouraged the community to monitor their energy use, which ultimately led to more energy efficient behaviour.

At regular meetings and wānanga, researchers shared their technical knowledge of renewable energy systems and the community shared their knowledge of local energy sources, energy requirements, and energy aspirations to inform the study. Towards the end of 2017, the community was presented with the initial research findings and information on different renewable options for the community. The presentation outlined strengths and weaknesses for each option, as well as all the factors households should take into account before committing to a renewable energy system. 
“Parihaka is showing leadership in the way the world has to quickly move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy,” says leader of the Research team, Dr Phil Murray, “The many potential co-benefits, other than reducing greenhouse gases, have become apparent during the study and the community can now become a role model for others to follow”.

Throughout their time in Parihaka, Massey University researchers also mentored community members who were progressing through their Renewable Technology studies (at Southern Institute of Technology), enabling robust discussions on energy use and the science

behind the data presented during the meetings. Working in an engaged community enabled researchers to take all of the needs of the community into account. Massey University researchers also further developed their knowledge of distributed microgeneration, which looks at the generation of small amounts of electricity where the demand exists.

The Parihaka community plans to share their learnings with visitors to their settlement, and to position themselves as role models for other similar communities.